Experiencing the birth and early stages of a child’s life give mothers a roadmap for their roles. Experts say pregnancy and delivery (thanks, oxytocin ) triggers their instincts for caregiving. But fathers have often been left out of this process.
That’s why we are pleased to learn that paternity leave for Jamaican public sector workers begins this month. Fathers will be paid for time with their new born. Be assured this move is not simply to give fathers time off. Paid paternity leave is likely to have a positive impact on Jamaican children’s lives. Being home with mother after birth can encourage fathers to engage in ways that will benefit the child.
For babies to grow in a warm, secure environment, care and affection from fathers are just as crucial as the food and nursing that a mother typically provides. The warmth of a fatherly touch gives the new born a sense of security and plants the important seeds of affection.
A father requires quality time with his child for his brain to switch into daddy mode, says Paul Raeburn, author of Do Fathers Matter. Listening to his baby's screams strengthens a father's capacity to establish and keep relationships by connecting regions in his brain associated with social perception, according to Raeburn.
One study shows early interaction with Dad is associated with greater cognitive development in young children. Another says by the age of three, 6-month-olds who regularly played with their fathers had more developed vocabulary than those who solely played with their mothers. Credit for that goes to the males’ use of stronger words .
Giving paternity leave also serves another function. The mother and the child need proper supervision and support post birth. An infant's necessities, frequent injections, and medications and the mother's aftercare require utmost attention. Who better to provide such care than fathers.
We hope most Jamaican fathers will step up and take advantage of this overdue job benefit. Children need the attention and love of both mother and father to grow into healthy and happy adults.